Until I bought the Vitara (Tugg) I had never driven a small 4×4. To be honest my first impression was quite frankly terrifying. Having driven countless cars and vans it is rare anything surprises me, yet the Vitara did. If I had test driven it before purchase I may not have bought it. Yes, I really was that unnerved. Compared to my MK3 Golf convertible it felt tall, narrow, did not accelerate, stop or handle.
After purchase, I drove it 5 miles or so to a friend’s place. Left it until picking it up the following day. That drive back in the dark and heavy rain was really one the worst of my life. I knew the Vitara made sense for work, but I was not sure if I could put up with it.
After some teething issues, I settled down to using her on a daily basis. Funny thing is after a week of driving Tugg in a variety of conditions I have to admit I was wrong.
On the road, the handling is really not as bad as I first thought. In a funny way it does handle, even well enough to surprise a newer BMW whilst I followed it up a particularly twisty road. I should mention I was towing my empty trailer at the time. On the dual carriageway, it is happy at 70 mph. At much more than that the petrol consumption is as frightening as I thought the handling was initially. The high seating combined with the large glass area gives a clear view ahead. Yes, it does pitch over bumps but you get used to it. The brakes… well yes, they do work in a way. Compared to the Golf, or any modernish car they are rubbish. A firm shove is needed and all that happens is the suspension absorbs most of the initial force. Yet they do work, you simply have to readjust your driving style.
This covers the on-road experience, but then you don’t buy a 4×4 to drive on the road. Well, most people only get as far as the odd grass verge. But I bought it for some gentle off-roading for both work and pleasure. So with a friend we did a little exploring on a Byway Open to All Traffic(BOAT). Tug performed with aplomb, the track was narrow and a little muddy but fairly level. My passenger smiled as I snuck the drive into 4 high and selected first. We trundled along the track for perhaps half a mile at 10 mph worrying a little about scratching the paintwork. Only a slight bank at the end of the track provided anything like a challenge. We grinned at each other as we crested it. Our first off-roading experience was fun.
Later after eating fish and chips overlooking the sea at Perranporth we decided to have another go on a BOAT. Having grown up in the area I knew one that cut across Cubert common. Having not been on it for 20 years I had no idea of the condition of the track. We headed through the gate, stopped for a moment admiring the distant lights. I chose low range and first gear to minimize any damage and to maximize control. My friend was a little worried about how close we were to the cliff despite my reassurances. We trundled into the dark down a track that I knew would get far worse.
The first 100 hundred yards was gentle, but then as the track dropped down it became rougher. A 9-inch drop on one side did not represent any form of challenge, just a little fun. A bit further down between high sand banks the track got a lot worse. After a little careful consideration, we decided to cross to the verge. The angle of lean was more extreme than we were used too, but nothing to be worried about. Soon after the track became better and we had completed our second green lane or BOAT.
I have to admit that Vitara really surprised me on the second track. She performed in a manner that inspired complete confidence.
After a week of driving Tugg, I’ve fallen for her charms. I do smile when I drive her after adapting my driving style… Despite her small size, she can carry an amazing amount of gear.
I’m even considering giving her a wash and polish…